It was, after all, just a matter of time!
As a survey of British social attitudes reveals a shocking upturn in prejudice, Allison Pearson argues that the political elite’s desire to advance multiculturalism with mass immigration has backfired
With impeccable timing, the children chose Mother’s Day lunch to tell their grandmother she was racist. And what vile abuse had my poor mother bandied about? She had asked her grandson if his choir sang Negro spirituals.
“Raaaa-cisst,” chorused my junior Thought Police with more than a hint of witchfinder glee.
“I’m not racist,” said my mother, clearly shocked. “What did I say that was racist?”
“You’re not allowed to call them Negro spirituals any more,” my Daughter informed her.
“What do you call them, then?” asked Grandma.
“African-American spirituals,” announced Daughter, a creature of such impeccable liberal certitude that she makes Nick Clegg look like Oswald Mosley.
“People of Colour spirituals,” hazarded the Boy. He obviously didn’t have a clue, but was enjoying his generation’s favourite baiting game: More Politically Correct Than Thou.
“Grandma is not racist,” said Himself. “Heinrich Himmler is a racist. Grandma, not so much.”
“Who’s Henry Himmer?” asked the Boy.
“Heinrich HIMMLER,” said Himself, “was a foul, Jew-exterminating, Nazi fiend whom your grandmother’s parents and their whole generation fought a world war to defeat in order that she could sit here 70 years later and be called racist by her sanctimonious and ungrateful grandchildren. Anyone for crumble?”
When my mum had gone for a nap, I explained to the kids that racism was not as black and white as they seemed to think. During their grandmother’s lifetime, the UK had seen vast social changes. Certain words once in common usage were now regarded as toxic, and rightly so. I blenched to think that, as a child myself, I went down the “Paki” shop to get some Blackjacks (inky toffees in a wrapper decorated with the faces of, then unremarkable, golliwogs). Miss Leyshon, my lovely primary school teacher, taught us to count with the help of three toys, Teddy, Dolly and Golly. In 2014, she would be considered guilty of inciting racial hatred.
I told the kids that, over the past 15 years, my mother’s town in South Wales had seen a huge influx of Eastern Europeans. It was possible for Grandma and her friends to note that the character of their birthplace had changed, and express some unease about it, but also for them to enthuse about their excellent Romanian dentist. Tolerance was not a one-way street. Tolerance meant treating elderly people who used outdated language with understanding, not finger-pointing and yelling “Raaa-cisst!” Real racism – the ugly, frightening, visceral kind – would flourish if people’s tolerance was taken for granted, and their communities changed too fast without any regard for the consequences.
That was two months ago, and I wish I were more surprised to learn that a new British Social Attitudes survey has found that more than a third of Britons admit they are racially prejudiced. Prejudice fell to an all-time low in 2001, but the latest figures show that the problem has returned to the level of 30 years ago. More than 90 per cent of those who say they are racist want to see immigration halted. More interestingly, 72 per cent of those who do not consider themselves racist also want to see immigration cut drastically.
As shell-shocked politicians from the main parties struggle to discern the causes of Ukip’s deafening electoral success, here’s a tip: look in the mirror, chaps! It is politicians, not the British people, who are to blame for a resurgence in racism; politicians who have ignored public opinion and created the conditions in which resentments fester and grow. Specifically, though not exclusively, it is New Labour who welcomed workers from the new, accession countries of the EU at a time when countries such as France and Germany wisely exercised their right to keep them out for another seven years. According to Jack Straw, this was a “spectacular” error. And Jack should know, because he was Home Secretary at the time. The plan of Tony Blair’s government, as laid bare by Andrew Neather, then a Blair speechwriter, was to banish that old, hideously white, retrograde England and usher in a new, vibrant, multicultural country which, rather conveniently, would vote Labour. Mr Blair now works in international conflict resolution, having stored up enough conflict in his homeland to keep future generations busy for centuries.